The New Milano Graphic Festival is Launching in Italy’s Capital of Style

Above: Camuffolab’s When the city changes you look at its colors

That for nearly two years live, in-person festivals, fairs and conferences were shut down went far beyond merely the loss of business and revenue. To be sure, in an increasingly digital world, it’s reasonable to argue that the face-to-face exchange of ideas has become more exigent than ever.

So there is a built-in exuberance especially regarding completely new opportunities being launched to facilitate those exchanges, as we at last crawl out from under the suffocating effects of the unexpectedly long Covid crisis. One of those in particular is the exciting new Milano Graphic Festival, premiering next week (March 25 – 27) in the northern Italian city that gives it its name – and which has obviously tended to be exalted more enthusiastically for its fashion scene.

The joint project of branding and communications agency h+ and SIGNS, a company founded by graphic designer and curator Francesco Dondina in 2016, MGF states its noble mission as “generating awareness and exchange while creating new connections between the business world and Italy’s top visual communicators.” In other words, it will act as a forum for exploring how good design can be more effectively integrated into our everyday existence.

John Alcorn, To make a dadaist poem

This is not insignificant, when one considers the pre- and post-Millennium enthusiasm for discourse about the business of contemporary design. But as we’ve witnessed over the last decade or so, design has become significantly more commodified and, well, feels these days much more driven by accountants than by ideology.

Graphic design, specifically has long served as an essential communication tool. And as the world becomes more globalized, with matters of language getting ever more complex, its role becomes more urgent still.

“We are surrounded by graphic design,” Dondina rightly observes. “It is everywhere we turn: in the streets, in public spaces, in houses, in offices, on store shelves, in objects of everyday use and in various forms of communication.”

John Alcorn, Cool Rock & Hot Rolls

And so the festival will seek to explicate its current state via a series of exhibitions, workshops and events in different locations around the city. In the Tortona Design District, BASE Milano will host SIGNS: An exhibition on Contemporary Italian Graphic Design (2022 Edition), which will bring together established and up-and-coming design talent from 25 different studios, including the work of Salvatore Gregorietti, Andrea Rauch, Paolo Tassinari, Paola Lenarduzzi, Silvana Amato, La Tigre and Franco Achilli, amongst others.

And Certosa Graphic Village will host a 3000-square meter performative and creative center, featuring the exhibition Generation YZ, highlighting the work of under-30 design talent. Most compelling will be the first retrospective in Italy on the legendary American graphic designer John Alcorn, known for his work with The Beatles in the 1960s. Boldly featured as well will be a 57-meter outdoor mural by Venice’s Camuffolab titled When the city changes you look at its colors, meant to ballyhoo the Certosa neighborhood’s regeneration in recent years.

Milano Graphic Festival is sure to be more than just a three-day celebration of graphic design – indeed, considering Italy was one of the early epicenters of the global pandemic, it rather feels like a symbol of a city and country getting back to doing what they do best. And if there is one thing Milano and Italia do very, very well, it is design.

Or as Dondina puts it, “Graphic design has contributed and still contributes to shaping the very culture and identity of a country.”

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